Management at BuzzFeed is clearly not feeling warmly about its editorial staff unionizing.
Union leaders for the digital outlet’s news division wrote in a tweet that management didn’t show up on time to an official meeting at the New York offices of NewsGuild to discuss recognition of the group. And a few minutes after the scheduled start time, the group was informed by human resources that management simply was not going to show up.
“This meeting was a crucial opportunity to make progress in agreeing on a bargaining unit, after more than seven weeks of frustratingly slow communication with BuzzFeed,” union leaders wrote. “Instead, they abandoned today’s negotiations. BuzzFeed management is engaging in clear union busting.”
A representative of BuzzFeed could not be immediately reached for comment.
BuzzFeed staff went public with their union effort in early February. While it was only a few weeks after the company laid off about 200 staffers (15 percent of its staff), organizers claimed to have been meeting “for years.” Nevertheless, the group said in its letter that it had formed to address “unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more.”
Before today’s scheduled meeting, the union said it had “repeatedly” asked founder Jonah Peretti and editor in chief Ben Smith to take part in negotiations, but they “declined.” Peretti has allegedly told them Smith is “in charge” and Smith has only “deferred to the company’s lawyers.”
Nevertheless, union leaders said in a memo to fellow staffers that a prior meeting on March 21 had left them feeling “optimistic” about further discussions. The union added that the main issue with recognition is that BuzzFeed management is declining to recognize the newsroom as a whole “editorial unit,” instead pushing for only “an extremely restrictive” list of job titles to be included in the bargaining unit.
While the union is pushing for whole recognition, it said it was “ready to talk” today with management about titles for inclusion in the unit. Meanwhile, the e-mail from h.r. argued that union leaders were trying to operate outside the “framework” discussed in the earlier meeting, purportedly because they intended to discuss the editorial unit. The union said they were told by h.r. that BuzzFeed “is not terminating discussions,” but argued that being stood up makes them question that.
“We showed up to our meeting fully intending to engage with management to resolve our differences of opinion and hear their concerns,” the union wrote. “Management did not.”
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